Preamble Afternoon. Since Fifa defiled the World Cup by increasing it to 32 teams in 1998, it's been a fairly safe bet that you will qualify for the last 16 if you win your first game (this has happened 86 per cent of the time) and go out if you lost your first (92 per cent). But there is no such comfort in Group D, which is about as unpredictable as the mood of a wino in JD Wetherspoons at 12.03pm, whose heed is seriously nippin' and who has just been told to put his fag out.
Indeed, even if Ghana win today they will still be in real danger of going out, despite having two wins out of two*. For Australia, life is simpler: it's a long shot, but they simply have to cross the halfway line if they hope to stay in this World Cup.
Ghana were terrific against Serbia on Sunday: effervescent, infectious, fearless, and a breath of the fresh stuff in a largely pungent first round of matches. You would expect them to take care of an apparently hopeless, certainly Cahill-less Australia, but I'm not totally convinced. Australia will have the battle fever on, and I reckon it'll be a tight 2-1 to Ghana.
Yes, yes I did nick that last paragraph from the rolling World Cup blog. It's not even remotely good, I just couldn't be bothered finding another way to state the bleedin' mundane.
* Something that has not happened since Yugoslavia in 1950 – and that was only because, in those days, only the top team in the group qualified.
Ghana (4-1-2-3) Kingson; Pantsil, Jonathan Mensah*, Addy, Sarpei; Annan; Asamoah, Boateng; Ayew, Gyan, Tagoe.
Australia (4-2-3-1) Schwarzer; Wilkshire, Moore, Neill, Carney; Valeri, Culina; Emerton, Holman, Bresciano; Kewell.
Referee Roberto Rossetti.* not to be confused with Sunderland's John Mensah
Kick off is at 3pm
Who's got the battle fever on?
Sole pre-match email "Absolutely and fantastically not related what is at hand, but am I the only Somali in Toronto who routinely follows the MBM?" says C/salaan Sh. Mukhtaar. "Probably so."
1 min Australia, in green and gold, kick off from right to left. Ghana are in white.
2 min Australia have a big shout for a penalty when Addy, one of the young centre halves brought in for this game, tangles with Kewell on the right side of the box. I think that should have been a penalty. Addy's right leg inadvertently knocked against Kewell's left, and that caused him to fall.
4 min The BBC's clock that we usually have at the top left of the screen has disappeared, which could make this MBM even more of a farce than usual. I think we're in the fourth minute.
5 min Where's ma clock?!
5 min Ma clock's back! At ease.
6 min Not much has happened about from that penalty appeal, and of course clockgate. Kevin Prince Boateng shoots miles wide from miles out.
7 min "Anywhere else on the field other than in the box, the Kewell challenge is a foul," says Gary Naylor, and he's right. "After Spain being denied an early penalty, that's another piece of cowardly refereeing - but they get more screen time giving ludicrous reds than stone-cold penalties don't they?"
8 min Addy tries to shepherd a long ball back to Kingson, and they end up colliding. Ghana's two young centre halves – who are in because John Mensah and the other fella are injured – have started pretty nervously. Perhaps they knew about the near tragedy that was clockgate and are unable to concentrate.
9 min "Melbourne calling," says Mike Witheford. "I have you on my left and the telly on my right. I am feeling quite sick with nerves." Is that what they're calling VB these days.
GOAL! Ghana 0-1 Australia (Holman 11) Another game, another goalkeeping howler. Bresciano's curling 25-yard free-kick bounced awkwardly but Kingson should still have dealt with it pretty easily. Instead it bounced off his biceps and fell loose in front of goal. Holman reacted first and, with his left foot, lifted it high into the net via the left hand of the diving Kingson.
12 min That really was a bad error. Kingson realised a fraction too late that he wasn't going to be able to hold it, so he tried to shovel it away from goal, but it was already on him and just bounced invitingly in front of goal.
13 min "Apparently all the complete and utter numpties on the 319 bus are unaware that I am missing the start of a game that is critical to my emotional state," grrrrrrrs Poppy McNee. "I think my head might explode from a morass of misplaced emotion. Everyone be quiet now, or kneel and pray!"
Complete and utter numpties? That's a special kind of numpty.
14 min Ghana have started really poorly. They look cowed, which is strange given the way they played against Serbia.
15 min "Seems the clock is back," says Rena Patel. "I am currently the only person in the bar relatively interested in this match. Even the bar manager can't be arsed, Supergrass is providing commentary." I Should Coco, I hope. Criminally underrated album, all punk-pop killer no etc.
17 min Australia are playing with a lot of authority. They've definitely got the battle fever on. If they win today everyone will have three points, which would set up a humdinging last round of fixtures: Germany v Ghana, Australia v Serbia and Poppy McNee v the 319 bus.
18 min "There's been a strong strain of sheer amateurishness running through this World Cup, no?" says Declan McKenzie. "Some of the goalkeeping in particular has been sub-pub team standard."
Naylor reckons there might be something sinister about some of the goalkeeping, but I can't see it. I just think that keepers have the heebie-Jabulanies.
20 min A crisp, penetrative pass from Boateng finds Ayew 25 yards out, right of centre. He zips infield, hugging the ball to his left foot, and then thrashes a shot that is deflected over the top for a corner.
21 min "Not looking good for Ghana," says Robert Marriott. "In the first 24 matches of this tournament, only one team has come from behind to win: Greece against Nigeria, and they had the benefit of a ridiculous sending off in their favour."
22 min It's hard to fathom why a team as good as Ghana have started so poorly. They look like a team who know they have an arse, know they have an elbow, but could do with an extensive tutorial as to which is which.
23 min Saying which, Asamoah Gyan goes on an exciting, muscular run around Craig Moore, but Lucas Neill comes across to block his shot from 15 yards.
24 min: PENALTY TO AUSTRALIA AND HARRY KEWELL SENT OFF! The whole game is changed in an instant. Harry Kewell blocks Annan's shot on the line with the top of his right arm; that's a clear red card and penalty, although for some reason Kewell is furious. He and his teammates implore the referee to look at the big screen, but the replays only confirm that it definitely hit him high on the right arm. He can have no complaints.
The penalty came after brilliant work from Ayew, who robbed Wilkshire by the touchline in the penalty area. He then slithered between Wilkshire and Emerton before crossing low. Gyan fell over under a challenge from Neill but it came to Annan, who swept it towards the corner from 10 yards. Kewell's right bicep did the rest.
GOAL! Ghana 1-1 Australia (Gyan 25 pen) Gyan makes it two penalties in as many games. He went the other way this time, passing it low to his right as Schwarzer dived the other way. That's an excellent penalty.
27 min Prince Tagoe wastes a very good chance, dragging wide of the near post from the left of the box when he had better options available.
28 min "Does Harry Kewell ever last longer than 23 minutes on the big stage?" says Peter Green. Kewell is still in a gargantuan funk, although I've no idea why.
29 min Australia are in huge trouble now. A draw doesn't mathematically eliminate them, but it would leave them needing snookers, an epiphany and, most unlikely of all, Germany to lose a second World Cup game in a row.
30 min "I Should Coco?" says Rena Patel. "No such luck, seems to be one of those compliation albums. Lady Gaga is on now. Watching this game makes me even more morose from last night. It looks a little better than the shambles that presented as football last night. Even without the commentary."
31 min "As I said (21 min), Greece came from behind to beat Nigeria thanks to a ridiculous sending off in their favour," says Robert Marriott. "Funny old game, etc."
32 min Ghana haven't really pushed on since equalising, which is odd. "'Clear red card' my arse Rob!" says David Black. "He had his arm down by his side and it was more on the shoulder than arm."
It was the top of the arm, and the fact he had his arm by his side is irrelevant because of the way he moves his body towards it I'm afraid. Next you'll be saying that this wasn't a penalty.
34 min Australia have done really well since going down to 10 men – mainly by doing nothing at all. They have just sucked the life out of the game by passing it around the back four, with Ghana only pressing the ball in the final third. Those are peculiar tactics in the circumstances. Ghana really need to win this.
35 min "The Australian TV thinks that the sending off is 'very harsh'," says Tomohiko Harada. "Personally, I think Harry Kewell is a complete and utter numpty."
The two aren't mutually exclusive, but in this case you're right.
37 min Craig Moore fouls Ayew 20 yards out, right in the centre of goal. Asamoah clips it straight into the wall. Meanwhile, my Australian colleague Russell Cunningham points out that Harry Kewell had the battle fever on even before the game.
40 min Lee Addy is booked for repeat offending, although the tackle alone – a reducer on Bresciano near the halfway line – was worthy of a yellow card. Ghana aren't controlling this game at all.
42 min "I'd have had more sympathy for Kewell if he had at least tried to head the ball, but he twitched his arm towards it and it did hit the arm," says Gary Naylor. "Only thing you can say in his favour is that contact like that is made by players in a wall and almost never results in a penalty and never a red card."
44 min Schwarzer makes a wonderful save. Boateng hustled Carney off the ball near the halfway line and ran all the way into the area, teasing Moore before shifting it to the side and driving a low right-footed shot towards the far corner. Schwarzer plunged to his right to make a wonderful fingertip save, although for some reason the referee gave it as a goalkick.
45 min "Sorry Rob, you're wrong," says David Stockman.
Oh, okay. Thanks!
Half time: Australia 1-1 Ghana A phalanx of Australians give the referee the livelier end of their tongue on the way off. They've actually played very well since going down to 10 men, aided by Ghana's surprising passivity, but they really need to find a way to win this game in the second half. A draw keeps them alive, but only just.
Half-time depression "Great," says Tom Prankerd, "another red card for Australia to whine about."
And to think they call us whingeing Poms. We're not whingers, we're just crap.
46 min Ghana kick off. I've got the battle fever on, having sifted through twos of emails calling me a cee for saying Kewell deserved to be sent off.
47 min "A pundit on Australian TV thinks the red card was harsh," says Charles Harris. "But that pundit is Kevin Muscat."
48 min "Sod it," says Poppy McNee. "As I discovered at an early age, it's ok to be un-Kewell."
Doesn't really work, does it?
49 min Ghana have started the second half with a discernible increase in urgency, pressing the ball much higher up the pitch. They really did waste 20 minutes after Kewell's red card.
50 min Gyan's right-footed curler from the edge of the area is nicely saved by Schwarzer, two-handed as he plunges to his left. Gyan did well, using Neill as a screen in the Whiteside style, but didn't quite set the ball wide enough so it was ultimately a comfortable stop for Schwarzer.
51 min So if this is a draw, it will be Ghana 4 points, Serbia 3, Germany 3 and Australia 1. But Australia's goal difference is so bad that, to get through, they would surely need Ghana to beat Germany (and they would have to beat Serbia themselves).
52 min If Australia lose today they are not quite out, by the way, but they would need to beat Serbia by three or four goals and hope Ghana beat Germany.
54 min Australia win a corner and, although it comes to nothing, they are still holding Ghana with as much comfort as could reasonably be expected in the circumstances.
55 min Ghana are about to bring on Arsenal alumnus Quincy Owusu-Abeyie.
56 min Quincy Owusu-Abeyie replaces Prince Tagoe.
57 min Moore, under pressure beyond the far post, heads Wilkshire's free kick wide of the near post.
58 min Australia have done extremely well in this match, and at the moment they look as likely to score as Ghana.
59 min If Ghana draw this they would need a draw against Germany to be certain of qualification – which they will also need even if they win this.
60 min Gyan's fairly tame 20-yard curler bounces a bit awkwardly and is well held by Schwarzer.
61 min "Once again, it's first touch hell out there," says Lee Calvert. "Have you ever seen a tournament where so many players cannot control the ball? It's shocking." No. This is shocking.
62 min "Anyone playing "Naive Defending Bingo"?" says Alan Ryan. "So far I have the following about the Ghana players:
"Big strong players""Exciting on the ball""Very well coached"
Anyone got any others?"
63 min Kevin Prince Boateng cracks a bobbling shot a few yards wide from 30 yards. Ghana are struggling here.
64 min "In the interest of balance – remember that? – another Aussie commentator said we can have no complaints about the red card," says Justin Rooks. "Maybe Tom Prankerd will allow us to feel a bit disappointed, is that still ok?"
65 min Australia's defensive excellence has forced Ghana into taking pot-shots from increasingly ridiculous distances. Few have hit the target; none have really stretched Schwarzer.
66 min An Australia substitution: Scott Chipperfield replaces Mark Bresciano.
67 min That was Australia's chance. Wilkshire broke down the right and stood up a really good cross to the far post. Chipperfield came in unmarked but he mistimed his jump, leaping too early and heading over from eight yards. That was a very good opportunity. Within a minute, Ghana almost take the lead. Gyan skins Moore on the right of the box and screams the ball across the face, just a couple of yards from goal. Asamoah at the far post stretched but couldn't get there in time.
68 min Another Australia substitution: Josh Kennedy replaces the goalscorerBrett Holman.
70 min Owusu-Abeyie sweeps an ambitious shot high and wide from 25 yards. Ghana have lost their nerve a bit.
71 min Asamoah Gyan misses a good chance. Boateng played a textbook straight pass down the side of the defence. Gyan's pace took him away from Neill but, as Moore came across, he curved his shot wide at the near post with the left foot.
72 min What a chance for Australia! Chipperfield played a fine defence-splitting pass to Wilkshire, unmarked 15 yards from goal. He took a touch and tried to pass it to the left of Kingson, but he made himself big and the rebounded clear. That was a fine and crucial save. This game is suddenly very open, because Australia are really going for it.
74 min Australia could win this. Ghana have bottled it completely.
76 min Australia have been the better team for the last 10 minutes. Ghana look absurdly nervous.
77 min A Ghanaian substitution: Sulley Muntari replaces Kwadwo Asamoah.
78 min Jonathan Mensah is rightly booked for a hopeless tackle on Chipperfield, 28 yards out.
79 min Emerton sweeps the free kick over the bar. HANG THE JABULANI.
80 min Ghana are a shower. So excellent against Serbia, they have been desperately disappointing, far too panicky.
83 min Australia are humping everything towards their huge substitute, Josh Kennedy. They look the more likely side to score.
84 min Annan is rightly booked for a cynical foul on Chipperfield, just past the centre circle.
85 min Australia make their final substitute: Nikita Rukavytsya replaces Luke Wilkshire.
86 min Craig Moore has been booked, no idea why, so he will miss the Serbia match. Kingson just manages to punch a dangerous cross clear under pressure from Rukavytsya.
87 min Ghana bring on Matthew Amoah for Kevin Prince Boateng. This game is ragged.
88 min Chipperfield's dangerous low cross from the left is desperately cleared by Kingson, a split second before he is clattered by the left studs of Rukavytsya. The referee gave a foul, so any follow up wouldn't have counted.
89 min Moore is penalised, perhaps harshly, for a foul on Amoah. The free kick is 25 yards out, in line with the left edge of the box. It's swung in by the left foot of Muntari and headed over by Jonathan Mensah beyond the far post. That was a pretty good chance, because he had escaped his marker Carney.
90 min "Woeful, one-sided referee," says Glenjamin Elsegood. "Once again Australia get beaten because an Italian plays dirty."
90+1 min There will be a minimum of three minutes' added time. Ghana are the ones pressing now. Moore heads a long throw behind for a corner. It's swung in by Muntari, headed clear to Owusu-Abeyie 25 yards out, and he hits a nasty, wobbling left-footed strike that Schwarzer sensibly punches over the bar.
90+3 min Pantsil is down, with blood coming out of his face. That looks a little nasty: he headbutted his own man, Ayew I think, as they leapt for a cross, and they have called for the stretcher. He's conscious, and he should be fine. Ghana will play the last few seconds with 10 men, having used all three subs.
Full time: Ghana 1-1 Australia It's a noble draw for Australia, who had 10 men for more than an hour, but it leaves their hopes hanging by a thread. A draw doesn't change much for Ghana, in that they would have needed a draw against Germany to be certiain of qualification even if they had won today, but the brainlessness of their performance was not at all impressive. So all four teams can still qualify from this fascinating group. Thanks for your emails; night.
This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.